Maya Angelou - Author, Facts and Family

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Maya Angelou's Personal Details

Maya Angelou was a famous writer, activist, singer, and actor, known best for her autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

InformationDetail
BirthdayApril 4, 1928
Died onMay 28, 2014
NationalityAmerican
FamousAuthor, African American Actress, African American Authors, African American Dancers, Black Actresses, Black Authors, Black Poets, Humanitarian, Activists, Rhythm & Blues Singers, Poets, ENFJ
City/StateMissouri
SpousesEnistasious Tosh Angelos, Paul du Feu, Vusumzi Make
SiblingsBailey Johnson Jr.
Known asMarguerite Annie Johnson
Childrens Guy Johnson
Universities
  • George Washington High School
  • California Labor School
Humanitarian Works
  • Associated with ‘Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial’
Birth PlaceSt. Louis
Height183cm
GenderFemale
FatherBailey Johnson
MotherVivian Baxter Johnson
Net Worth$10 million
Sun SignAries
Born inSt. Louis
Famous asAuthor
Died at Age86

// Famous Author

Maya Angelou's photo

Who is Maya Angelou?

Maya Angelou was a distinguished writer who witnessed a lot of domestic crisis as a child. At the young age of seven, she faced abuse in the form of rape, by her mother's boyfriend. Along with her older brother, she was forced to travel places while growing up, unable to settle down in one place for a long time. Despite having a difficult childhood and adolescence, her spirit did not take a beating. She began earning for herself as a cab driver, and then became a dancer and singer. Soon, she learnt several languages on a tour to Europe, and showed a keen interest in English literature. She befriended established African-American writers, who motivated her to pursue writing as a career. Maya published her first autobiography, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', at the age of forty-one. The book received favourable reviews and she gradually became an established writer. She also acted in musicals, tried her hand at directing movies, and even writing and producing a documentary. She is also known for her feminist beliefs, which are most evident through her famous poem, 'Phenomenal Woman'. Having campaigned for many charitable causes, and made a mark as a poet, the death of this writer was mourned by many famous people

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Childhood & Early Life

Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928 to Bailey, a dietician and Vivian Johnson, a nurse, in St. Louis, Missouri. Marguerite had an older brother, Bailey Jr., and the two children lived with their parents till the former was three years old.

When their parents separated, the siblings were sent to the town of Stamps, Arkansas, where they lived for a while with Annie Henderson, their paternal grandmother. Though it was the time of the economic crisis known as 'Great Depression', Annie was quite well off, being the owner of a grocery store.

In the mid-1930s, their father, Bailey took them back to St. Louis, and left them with their mother, Vivian. Here, Maya was sexually abused by her mother's new partner, Freeman.

The young girl confided in her brother, and Bailey Jr. told the rest of the family. Freeman was arrested for only a day, after which he was released. However, he was found murdered after a few days, and though the culprit was never found, it was speculated that the children's uncles took revenge.

Following this incident, Maya blamed herself for the murder, and lost her voice for almost five years. The two young children returned to Stamps, to their grandmother's house.

Here the girl was tutored by Mrs Bertha Flowers, who introduced the former to works of authors like Dickens and Shakespeare, and also black women writers, Frances Harper, and Jessie Fauset.

At the age of 14, Maya and her brother started living with their mother in Oakland, where she pursued her secondary education from the 'California Labor School'. During this time she began working as a cab driver, becoming the first black woman to have done so.

Career

In the early 1950s, in San Francisco, she began learning dance, and got acquainted to famous performers of the time Ruth Beckford and Alvin Ailey. For some time, Maya showcased her talent as a dancer at various organizations, teaming up with Alvin, and naming their pair, 'Al and Rita'.

She soon travelled to New York City, with the aim of training under African dance instructor, Pearl Primus. She trained for a year, and then came back to San Francisco.

In 1954, the artiste danced in various nightclubs of the city to earn a living, including the famous 'Purple Onion'. Till then she was known as Marguerite or Rita, but she soon changed her name to Maya Angelou, because it suited her personality of a calypso dancer.

From 1954-55, the calypso performer went on a Europe tour, accompanying the crew of the musical, 'Porgy and Bess'. During her stay there, she made it a point to pick up the language of each place that she went to.

In 1951, Angelou married Greek electrician, former sailor, and aspiring musician Tosh Angelos, despite the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time and the disapproval of her mother.

Within two years, she had released her debut album, titled 'Miss Calypso'. The album formed the basis of a movie in the same year, 'Calypso Heat Wave'. In both the album and the film, it was Angelou who wrote and performed her own songs.

In 1959, Maya was introduced to John Oliver Killens, a popular author, who had a profound influence on the former's career as a writer. On his suggestion, she began writing as a member of the 'Harlem Writers Guild', along with other established writers like Rosa Guy, Julian Mayfield, and John Henrik Clarke.

The following year, in 1960, she had the privilege of meeting human rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. Inspired, novelist Killens and the new aspiring writer held a musical programme titled 'Cabaret for Freedom'. The show was meant to fund the 'Southern Christian Leadership Conference' ('SCLC').

It was at this time, that inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro, she began crusading for human rights, and anti-apartheid ideals.

In 1961, the writer-singer also tried dabbling in acting with a performance in a play by French writer Jean Genet, titled 'The Blacks'. She was accompanied by other African-American actors like Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Brown, and Abbey Lincoln.

During the same time, she was also employed by the newspaper 'The Arab Observer', as an assistant editor.

The next year, she travelled to Ghana's city of Accra, and stayed there till 1965. During her stay there, she worked at the 'University of Ghana' and as an editor for 'The African Review. She also freelanced as a contributor for the 'Ghanaian Times', and 'Radio Ghana', occasionally acting at the 'National Theatre'.

It was in Ghana, that she met social activist Malcolm X, and she went back to the United States to assist him in founding the 'Organization of Afro-American Unity'. After Malcolm's murder some time later, she moved to Hawaii, to be with her brother. There she performed as a singer for some time, before travelling once again to Los Angeles.

In 1967, she settled down in New York, and resumed her writing, producing several plays and even acting in them. The same year, she also met old friends, writers Rosa Guy, and James Baldwin.

Martin Luther King Jr. requested Maya's help in coordinating a civil rights march in 1968. However, before they could realize this goal, Luther was assassinated on April 4, the day the popular singer-writer turned forty.

The same year, she produced a documentary series containing ten parts, titled 'Blacks, Blues, Black!'. The documentary, depicting African-Americans' contribution to Blues music, was released for the 'National Educational Television'.

In 1969, she wrote her first autobiography, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', sharing with readers the experiences she went through in the first seventeen years of her life. The book became an instant hit and Angelou shot to fame as a writer. Two years later she wrote a collection of poems, 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie'.

In 1972, she wrote a screenplay, 'Georgia, Georgia', becoming the first black woman to write a film script. The following year she acted in a Broadway musical, 'Look Away', along with co-actress Geraldine Page.

Maya's second autobiography, 'Gather Together in My Name', was published in 1974, which like the first book was received well by critics and ardent fans alike. Two years later, she brought out another autobiography titled 'Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas'.

In 1977, the shy actress was cast in 'Roots', a television series based on Alex Haley's book by the same name, portraying the hardships faced by African slaves in the 18th century. Later that decade she met celebrity TV presenter Oprah Winfrey, becoming her friend and guide in the years to come.

In the 1980s, she released two more autobiographies, named ‘The Heart of a Woman’, and ‘All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes’, both proving her calibre once again. She also joined the ‘Wake Forest University’ in North Carolina as a lecturer under the ‘Reynolds Professorship of American Studies’, granted to her by the institution.

During the same period, she directed 'Moon', a play by Errol John, which was performed at London's 'Almeida Theatre'.

In 1993, Angelou was invited by President Bill Clinton to read out her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning', at his swearing-in ceremony. She was the second poet to receive the privilege, after Robert Frost's recitation on the first day of President Kennedy's presidency.

Her next public recitation was in 1995 with the poem 'A Brave and Startling Truth', performed on 'United Nations' golden jubilee celebrations. The following year, she released a music album 'Been Found', in association with singers Ashford & Simpson.

In 1998, she became the first African-American woman to direct a movie, 'Down in the Delta', starring Wesley Snipes and Alfre Woodard.

Her sixth autobiography, ‘A Song Flung Up to Heaven’, which became quite popular with readers, was published in 2002. The same decade she tried her hand at writing two cookbooks, ‘Hallelujah! The Welcome Table’, and ‘Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart’.

She also involved herself in the presidential campaigns of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. In 2011, she was appointed by the ‘Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial’, Washington, D.C., as an advisor. Two years later, Maya released her last autobiography, ‘Mom & Me & Mom’, which explores the writer’s bond with her mother.

Major Works

This famous writer is known for her autobiography ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ published in 1969. The book uses Angelou’s life to touch upon the subjects of sexual exploitation, identity crisis, and literacy of a woman in a male-dominated society. The book was chosen as one of the contenders in 1970 for the ‘National Book Award’ in the United States.

Awards & Achievements

In 1971, Angelou was nominated for the 'Pulitzer Prize', for the book, 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie'. Two years later, she got a 'Tony Award' nomination for her performance in the Broadway, 'Look Away'.

From 1994-96, this writer was awarded the 'Grammy' on two occasions in the 'Best Spoken Word Album' category, for poems 'On the Pulse of Morning', and 'Phenomenal Woman'.

In 2000, she received the 'National Medal of Arts', the highest honour presented to an artist by the government of the United States of America.

Three years later, in 2003, she won another ‘Grammy’, for ‘A Song Flung Up to Heaven’, in the 'Best Spoken Word Album' category.

This famous activist-writer has been awarded the ‘Lincoln Medal’ and ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ in the 2000s. She has also received honorary degrees from more than fifty educational institutions.

Personal Life & Legacy

When she was seventeen years old, she became a mother to a boy, who she named Clyde. Clyde changed his name later to Guy Johnson, and like his mother, he is also a successful writer.

In 1951, she got married Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor, living with him for almost three years.

For a brief period of time in the 1960s, Maya was in love with Vusumzi Make, a South African freedom fighter, and lived with him in Cairo.

In 1973, she got married to a carpenter named Paul du Feu, who was earlier married to feminist Germaine Greer. The couple separated after almost eight years of marriage.

On May 28, 2014, the celebrated writer died, and her funeral services were held at the ‘Mount Zion Baptist Church’, Winston-Salem, and ‘Wait Chapel’, on the premises of ‘Wake Forest University’. The service was attended by eminent personalities like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and Michelle Obama.

Trivia

Recently, a stamp containing the quote "A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song", was issued by the 'United States Postal Service', to honour this brilliant African-American feminist poet and singer. The quote is often mistaken to be hers, whereas it is actually by poet Joan Walsh Anglund

// Famous Rhythm & Blues Singers

Maya Angelou biography timelines

  • // 4th Apr 1928
    Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928 to Bailey, a dietician and Vivian Johnson, a nurse, in St. Louis, Missouri. Marguerite had an older brother, Bailey Jr., and the two children lived with their parents till the former was three years old.
  • // 1951
    In 1951, Angelou married Greek electrician, former sailor, and aspiring musician Tosh Angelos, despite the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time and the disapproval of her mother.
  • // 1951
    In 1951, she got married Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor, living with him for almost three years.
  • // 1954
    In 1954, the artiste danced in various nightclubs of the city to earn a living, including the famous 'Purple Onion'. Till then she was known as Marguerite or Rita, but she soon changed her name to Maya Angelou, because it suited her personality of a calypso dancer.
  • // 1954 To 1955
    From 1954-55, the calypso performer went on a Europe tour, accompanying the crew of the musical, 'Porgy and Bess'. During her stay there, she made it a point to pick up the language of each place that she went to.
  • // 1959
    In 1959, Maya was introduced to John Oliver Killens, a popular author, who had a profound influence on the former's career as a writer. On his suggestion, she began writing as a member of the 'Harlem Writers Guild', along with other established writers like Rosa Guy, Julian Mayfield, and John Henrik Clarke.
  • // 1960
    The following year, in 1960, she had the privilege of meeting human rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. Inspired, novelist Killens and the new aspiring writer held a musical programme titled 'Cabaret for Freedom'. The show was meant to fund the 'Southern Christian Leadership Conference' ('SCLC').
  • // 1961
    In 1961, the writer-singer also tried dabbling in acting with a performance in a play by French writer Jean Genet, titled 'The Blacks'. She was accompanied by other African-American actors like Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Brown, and Abbey Lincoln.
  • // 1965
    The next year, she travelled to Ghana's city of Accra, and stayed there till 1965. During her stay there, she worked at the 'University of Ghana' and as an editor for 'The African Review. She also freelanced as a contributor for the 'Ghanaian Times', and 'Radio Ghana', occasionally acting at the 'National Theatre'.
  • // 1967
    In 1967, she settled down in New York, and resumed her writing, producing several plays and even acting in them. The same year, she also met old friends, writers Rosa Guy, and James Baldwin.
  • // 1968
    Martin Luther King Jr. requested Maya's help in coordinating a civil rights march in 1968. However, before they could realize this goal, Luther was assassinated on April 4, the day the popular singer-writer turned forty.
  • // 1969
    In 1969, she wrote her first autobiography, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', sharing with readers the experiences she went through in the first seventeen years of her life. The book became an instant hit and Angelou shot to fame as a writer. Two years later she wrote a collection of poems, 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie'.
  • // 1969 To 1970
    This famous writer is known for her autobiography ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ published in 1969. The book uses Angelou’s life to touch upon the subjects of sexual exploitation, identity crisis, and literacy of a woman in a male-dominated society. The book was chosen as one of the contenders in 1970 for the ‘National Book Award’ in the United States.
  • // 1971
    In 1971, Angelou was nominated for the 'Pulitzer Prize', for the book, 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie'. Two years later, she got a 'Tony Award' nomination for her performance in the Broadway, 'Look Away'.
  • // 1972
    In 1972, she wrote a screenplay, 'Georgia, Georgia', becoming the first black woman to write a film script. The following year she acted in a Broadway musical, 'Look Away', along with co-actress Geraldine Page.
  • // 1973
    In 1973, she got married to a carpenter named Paul du Feu, who was earlier married to feminist Germaine Greer. The couple separated after almost eight years of marriage.
  • // 1974
    Maya's second autobiography, 'Gather Together in My Name', was published in 1974, which like the first book was received well by critics and ardent fans alike. Two years later, she brought out another autobiography titled 'Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas'.
  • // 1977
    In 1977, the shy actress was cast in 'Roots', a television series based on Alex Haley's book by the same name, portraying the hardships faced by African slaves in the 18th century. Later that decade she met celebrity TV presenter Oprah Winfrey, becoming her friend and guide in the years to come.
  • // 1993
    In 1993, Angelou was invited by President Bill Clinton to read out her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning', at his swearing-in ceremony. She was the second poet to receive the privilege, after Robert Frost's recitation on the first day of President Kennedy's presidency.
  • // 1994 To 1996
    From 1994-96, this writer was awarded the 'Grammy' on two occasions in the 'Best Spoken Word Album' category, for poems 'On the Pulse of Morning', and 'Phenomenal Woman'.
  • // 1995
    Her next public recitation was in 1995 with the poem 'A Brave and Startling Truth', performed on 'United Nations' golden jubilee celebrations. The following year, she released a music album 'Been Found', in association with singers Ashford & Simpson.
  • // 1998
    In 1998, she became the first African-American woman to direct a movie, 'Down in the Delta', starring Wesley Snipes and Alfre Woodard.
  • // 2000
    In 2000, she received the 'National Medal of Arts', the highest honour presented to an artist by the government of the United States of America.
  • // 2002
    Her sixth autobiography, ‘A Song Flung Up to Heaven’, which became quite popular with readers, was published in 2002. The same decade she tried her hand at writing two cookbooks, ‘Hallelujah! The Welcome Table’, and ‘Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart’.
  • // 2003
    Three years later, in 2003, she won another ‘Grammy’, for ‘A Song Flung Up to Heaven’, in the 'Best Spoken Word Album' category.
  • // 2011
    She also involved herself in the presidential campaigns of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. In 2011, she was appointed by the ‘Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial’, Washington, D.C., as an advisor. Two years later, Maya released her last autobiography, ‘Mom & Me & Mom’, which explores the writer’s bond with her mother.
  • // 28th May 2014
    On May 28, 2014, the celebrated writer died, and her funeral services were held at the ‘Mount Zion Baptist Church’, Winston-Salem, and ‘Wait Chapel’, on the premises of ‘Wake Forest University’. The service was attended by eminent personalities like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and Michelle Obama.

// Famous Black Actresses

Maya Angelou's FAQ

  • What is Maya Angelou birthday?

    Maya Angelou was born at 1928-04-04

  • When was Maya Angelou died?

    Maya Angelou was died at 2014-05-28

  • Where was Maya Angelou died?

    Maya Angelou was died in Winston-Salem

  • Which age was Maya Angelou died?

    Maya Angelou was died at age 86

  • Where is Maya Angelou's birth place?

    Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis

  • What is Maya Angelou nationalities?

    Maya Angelou's nationalities is American

  • Who is Maya Angelou spouses?

    Maya Angelou's spouses is Enistasious Tosh Angelos, Paul du Feu, Vusumzi Make

  • Who is Maya Angelou siblings?

    Maya Angelou's siblings is Bailey Johnson Jr.

  • Who is Maya Angelou childrens?

    Maya Angelou's childrens is Guy Johnson

  • What was Maya Angelou universities?

    Maya Angelou studied at George Washington High School, California Labor School

  • How tall is Maya Angelou?

    Maya Angelou's height is 183

  • Who is Maya Angelou's father?

    Maya Angelou's father is Bailey Johnson

  • Who is Maya Angelou's mother?

    Maya Angelou's mother is Vivian Baxter Johnson

  • What is Maya Angelou's sun sign?

    Maya Angelou is Aries

  • How famous is Maya Angelou?

    Maya Angelou is famouse as Author